New Year, New Goals
January 1 is the perfect time to hit the “refresh” button on your dance training and shake off whatever was holding you back last year. It might be hard to believe, but even the most amazing dancers use this time of year to look for ways they can improve and set new goals. Here are 10 pros’ resolutions.
Photo by Gene Schiavone
Whitney Jensen, Boston Ballet Soloist
“I want to focus on being more creative in the roles I dance and the way I approach the process of taking on a character. Also, I’d like to start doing more choreography. We have a lot of amazing young choreographers at Boston Ballet, and right now I’m working with Paolo Arrais on a contemporary pas de deux. The experience has inspired me to begin working on a piece of my own.”
Sasha Mallory, “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 8 Runner-Up
“My New Year’s Resolution is to push hard, to grow and to create, whether in my choreography, teaching, performing or personal relationships. I try to learn from every
experience. For example, if I went to my little cousin’s play, I’d see what I could learn from the kids, because kids are always inventing new ways to perform. You can learn from anything if you’re aware.”
Photo by Gene Schiavone
Sam Black, Mark Morris Dance Company
“I’d like to go see more shows. There are so many great shows to see in NYC. It’s important for me to see what my friends and peers are doing—supporting other people helps me to be a part of the bigger dance community. I live in Brooklyn, so I plan to go to shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They host a lot of international companies and have a range from well-known, established choreographers to lesser-known choreographers that need exposure and audiences.”
Photo by Leopoldo Bayol
Martin and Facundo Lombard, aka “The Lombard Twins,” Tap and “Free Expression” Artists
“Right now, we’re writing a script for a feature film called Dreamers. It’s an autobiographical drama with a lot of dancing and it’s based on a play that we wrote a few years ago and toured Europe with. Our goal for next year is to finish the script and sell it. Then, we’re going to go to every producer and production company in L.A., and we’re going to knock on doors and tell people about it. That’s what we used to do when we were younger—that’s how we ended up performing with Michael Jackson and James Brown, and how we got into Step Up 3D. When you have a dream, you just have to go for it.”
Photo by Todd Rosenberg
Alice Klock, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
“I’d like to become more bold in my dancing, and to do my best with real conviction whether I feel confident about it or not. I just joined Hubbard Street in August, so I learned a lot of repertory in a short amount of time. I worried about doing everything correctly, so I would pull things back a bit and focus more on the steps than the feeling of the piece. By performance time, I finally got to that feeling, but if I had really danced right off the bat and made the mistakes I was so worried about making, the rehearsal director might have been able to help me more. I think if you just put out everything you have in rehearsal, that’s when you can be the most productive.”
Photo by Melissa Hamburg/Courtesy Broadway Dance Center
Jared Grimes, Tap Instructor at Broadway Dance Center
“I have the same resolution every year: to be on time. I’ve gotten a lot better, but punctuality is tough for me. I have a crazy schedule, with training and rehearsals and shows, and it’s getting busier. This year, it’s all about staying on schedule.”
Photo by Derek White
Shonica Gooden, Bring It On: The Musical
“Sometimes I find myself being so much of a perfectionist when I’m dancing that I forget to have fun with it. As part of the Bring It On cast, I’ve learned that I have to find a happy medium between being a professional and enjoying myself. Our profession is work, but it’s also a lot of fun. I think sometimes we think ‘professional’ means ‘no mistakes’ and that we’re not still learning. When I tell myself to just let loose and enjoy a class, it’s so much easier to do the movement. My resolution is to be a healthy perfectionist: to keep myself on my toes and remain humble, but also to enjoy the process.”
Photo by Old Hat Creative
Marisa Viestenz, Oklahoma City Thunder Girls
“I want to run a half marathon. We [the Thunder Girls] work with our trainer, Steve Clausen, year-round both as a group and on our own. He makes us do some tough stuff—like rolling tires across the floor—that helps us get stronger and keeps us in shape. I never liked running before, but I enjoy it now. This year, I’ll follow one of his training guidelines for running.”
Photo by Erik Tomasson
Lorena Feijoo, San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer
“This year, I want to make an effort to spend more time with people who are important in my life. Every time I do, it grounds me and helps me put things in perspective. To be great at anything, you need to be a great human being first.”
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.